Mike and I met in the fire service, got engaged in the fire service and continue serving for 20+ years together in the fire service.  You could say we both loved the fire service.  Mike did it as a career, and I volunteered and made “geek speak” my vocation (Information Technology).  We have both been deployed to hurricanes with the Jefferson County Swift Water Rescue Team.  I got deployed to Isabel in 2003, and he was deployed to Katrina in 2005.

Over the years, we have seen many devastating emergencies and some with happy endings.  We have made fire, and EMS runs that include a catfish stuck in the head, with fingers getting sawed off, to heart attacks and babies being born.  I enjoy working with Mike considerably, and we complemented each other when we were dispatched together.

I guess I must have made an impression on him also because he proposed to me one year at Fire Officer’s School.  I am probably the only girl to ever get a ring, a rose, and a fire helmet for my engagement.  He was supposed to be raffling off a fire helmet and rigged it so he would draw my name.  I was so happy that I won the helmet that I didn’t hear everyone yelling “Rigged, rigged.”  After I got to the front of the crowd of about 700 firefighters is when I heard Mike admit that yes it was rigged and then he dropped to one knee.  I was a little nervous but more for him.

My husband has taught and spoke in front of large audiences for many years without any anxiety, but tonight was different.  As he was talking to me, his hands were visibly shaking.  I wanted just to hold his hands but for some reason thought he would collapse if I touched him while he was asking my hand in marriage.  He finished his proposal, and I said “yes.”

I got to marry my best friend.  We went to Jamaica and got married there without the crowd and planning needed to have a wedding here in the states.  We went and saw Billy Joel and Elton John the night before we left. Then we just hopped on a plane, stayed a few days in Jamaica, got married, and then flew home.

I tell you all this because it sounds like a fairy tale right?  I would like to be able to tell you that our relationship has always been this way, but I would be lying.  The main reason it does not classify as a fairy tale is because I have struggled with and have been diagnosed with a mental disorder, insomnia, and four other comorbid illnesses for over 30 years.

My psychiatrist has diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder, Depression, PTSD and Dissociative Disorder.   I would like to make it clear that “I am not defined by my diagnosis.”  That means that I am not just borderline, bipolar, or PTSD.  It means that I a person, a mother, a sister, and a mental health advocate.  My interests in psychology have been mostly with my diagnosis and how to help people with similar findings that I can relate.

With that being said, I prefer to teach or discuss REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy).  There are over 700 psychological theories.  I over my 30+ years have studied a handful of those trying to find relief from my mental illness.  I have compared most of these treatments as trying to place a band-aid on a gushing wound.

I fully understand that digging in my past does not work for me.  It only causes me to remember things that I don’t want to remember.  Instead, I prefer to be in the here and now.  If you are dwelling in the past, it makes you depressed, and there is no amount of thinking you can do to change the past.  If you dwell on the future and “what if’s” then you are living in the future and struggling with anxiety.  I have decided to live in the present, by practicing REBT, emotional intelligence, and mindfulness, to be content with my life.

One aspect of this book that we will discuss is that people cannot make you feel anything.  In the same way, events cannot make you feel anything.  This is very crucial for people who have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.  “People don’t get upset.  They contribute to their own upset-ness.”  Events cannot make you feel, you feel because of your thoughts and perceptions about an event.

I usually do not share my past with people unless I think it may help either the diagnosed individual with Borderline Personality Disorder or to offer help to a therapist treating a client with BPD.  When I share my memories, it is like picking a scab and making it bleed all over again.  It hurts reminding me of the years I struggled to find a viable treatment for BPD.

It is my intention by writing this book that it will inform the reader, whether patient or therapist, first, about my past and how I believed my mind develops BPD, and also about the treatments that have helped or hindered me in my 30+ years of living with my diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.  I have been through many medications, therapies, and hospitalizations over the years.  I have had spiritual and cognitive interventions.  With many of these therapies, I had a rigid pattern of thinking where I functioned and behaved unhealthily.

I have exhibited the following behaviors:

·         I have had a fear of abandonment and an unstable self-image which I believe started as young as from birth until age three.

·         I have had intense relationships where I would idolize a person one moment then believe that person was horrible the next.

·         I have exhibited impulse problems with gambling, reckless driving, and self-medicating.

·         I have cut myself since I was 14 and attempted suicide multiple times.

·         My emotional instability over the years included fits of rage, anxiety, and fear with very little control over my emotions.

·         I had periods of disassociation that caused me to lose track of time and forget events.

·         I also had feelings of emptiness. I was always searching for the one item or idea that would make everything normal.  Sometimes this was a form of drugs, psychotherapy or cutting on myself, which is unhealthy or it was in a very healthy form of volunteering for an organization.  No matter what I accomplished, I had a feeling of emptiness.

I am telling you this not to boast about how many symptoms I have, but to lay out the foundation as to why my psychiatrist diagnosed me with a borderline personality disorder.  I want the reader to understand that I went through many years of various treatments with very little or no improvement.  If you are “knee deep” in therapy and nothing is working, then I want to give you a spark of hope with this book.  Borderline Personality Disorder is a thinking problem.  It is not an organic condition like Bipolar II is.  That means if you change your thoughts and perceptions then you can manage your Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis.

I currently have confidence that I am managing my BPD symptoms by changing my narrow, unhealthy thinking, to broader and more rational thoughts.  I have done this by learning Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy skills together with Emotional Intelligence.  I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a therapist who practices REBT and EI.  I am very thankful for him for taking me on as a patient.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy is a conscious mental effort that takes a lot of work to be effective.  I recommend locating a therapist who specializes in REBT and for them to guide you through the process.  Having someone who is familiar with REBT and Borderline Personality Disorder is essential for your healing.  For more information, please visit http://albertellis.org/rebt-cbt-therapy/ or http://www.borderlinehelp.com/.